back to article So: 6,500 Win 8 laptops later, how are BT's field engineers coping?

An unheard-of decline in PC sales figures since launch, a grumbling press and a user base that struggles without a touchscreen: Windows 8 is easy to take a swipe at. Yet BT announced in November last year it was deploying 5,900 Win 8 Panasonic Toughbooks for its "last mile" Openreach division – the engineers who walk the line …

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Re: surprised at the use of iPhones.

@JDX

If your intial post was sarcastic or ironic, your right I didn't get it. Strange I usually pick up on that side of things...

Oh well , back to the grind.

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FAIL

Re: surprised at the use of iPhones.

Why wouldn't they? If the iPhone does what they need then why not standardise on it?

There's a certain benefit from standardising on *anything* that does the job, and it may be they got a good deal on the iphone for buying in bulk, or that certain apps they needed were available / easier to develop in house for the iphone, or they did a study and determined that training costs would be less for that platform than others they looked at.

It's painfully obvious you've never managed a large fleet of devices of any kind if you think this was down to a "fanboi in the purchasing department".

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Re: @theodore surprised at the use of iPhones.

My experience here is almost word-for-word the same as EvilGav 1's... Only difference was the VP who decided we were supporting iPads didn't already have his own - he'd decided that he'd wait until he could have the company buy one for him.

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Facepalm

I particularly like the way the upper corners of the screen are obscured by the carry case straps. 21st century luggage design at its best :)

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But it's no better than 7

The original argument against 8 was that it was worse than 7. I think the fact that it's being used in the real world without all the massive difficulties that the gui is supposed to cause is interesting.

And who uses windows 7 on a touch screen device? Anyone with real experience of that? Is it as good as 8 on touch?

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Windows

@sabroni "windows 7 on a touch screen device? Anyone with real experience of that?"

Yes, I had an Acer W500 with Win7 preinstalled and lived with that for about 3 months until they released the build version of Win8. The experience of Win7 on a tablet is not to be recommended (although it is of course a fine desktop os). The W500 was very painful with Win7 on board for all the reasons you might anticipate, installing Win8 made it at least usable despite the C50 cpu and the limited amount of RAM (2 Gb). If you do have a user case for installing Windows on a touch device, make it Win8.

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Re: But it's no better than 7

@sabroni: "And who uses windows 7 on a touch screen device? Anyone with real experience of that? Is it as good as 8 on touch?"

I did for some time (Dell Latitude XT) and whilst it was better than previous incarnations of Windows with touch screens, it was still massively lacking and all too often you end up having to resorting to keyboard/mouse or at least a stylus to get things done. By comparison, Windows 8, even on the desktop is a massive improvement.

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:toppa:

:ninja:

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Anonymous Coward

Windows 8 at BT

It's all gone to POTS

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Anonymous Coward

hah hah hah

The haters are starting panic!! They are all like 'cough, splutter all my nerdy mates said that Win8 was rubbish and, although I had not used it myself, I felt I had to agree to seem cool!!'

The reality is that Win8 is on a roll, steam rolling any freetards or linux lovers that stand in its path!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hah hah hah

What is all this haters and lovers nonsense? An OS is a tool. Any given one will either run on the hardware you need for your apps or not, and it will either run those apps well or not.

If it meets your needs, use it - and if it doesn't, don't. Choosing an OS is not a moral decision, there's no path to righteousness.

I despair that there might actually be people who use the term 'linux lovers' who are actually employed as IT professionals. I employ people for their skills, experience and knowledge and I expect them to use it without prejudice. In some instances the right answer is Linux, in others it's Windows, even iOS has its place in a corporate environment.

All moaning aside - if you want a successful, long-term career in IT, I suggest you grow up.

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TRT
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What I get from this is...

that the custom apps that they use do the job, that they can integrate GeoDBs with Google maps which is great, and that whenever they drop into the Win 8 environment to demo something to a customer, they lose the plot and get all frustrated. So the thing that comes out shining is the new form factor / hardware and the BT bespoke software rather than Win 8 itself which appears to be a source of frustration.

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M7S
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Thumb Up

Earlier Windows with touchscreens

For those arguing that there's nothing here that couldn't be done with Win7 and (presumably) a touchscreen, my current (personally owned) laptop for ambulance use is a touchscreen enabled rugged laptop still with the original installation of Windows XP so nyah nyah. (I fully expect someone to counter with Windows 3.0 by return post)

That said the seemingly incessant carping about how these articles are just advertising for a company and/or how this could be done with another OS/piece of kit is getting a little repetitive. I'm surprised Eadon hasn't already posted something critical of BT as a sizeable and mostly technically capable company for not running the whole project using home built hardware running Linux.

I personally was pleased to read about a successful large scale deployment of this technology, as I am with other bits of tech. Personally I'm sceptical about whether or not I'll upgrade to Win8 anytime soon or even at all, either for myself or my various employers, and I know that in a day or so the cheap online option expires, but if I were to read only the comments on the site I'd be even more depressed. Yes, there's lots of things wrong with IT and the relentless pressure to upgrade that I've also commented on elsewhere on this site but this is a success guys, it's the sort of thing that keeps many of us in employment.

I'm not a schill (promise) for any of the companies mentioned, but if the nice people at BT read this and could just get in touch about upgrading my broadband or passing me an old unit to replace my antique, I wouldn't say no........ mwah mwah.

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Anonymous Coward

What I'd like to know is

What would Almon Strowger and Agner Erlang make of all this?

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Facepalm

"laptop says no"

Just wanted to see that again!

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So basically the manager who was most likely given a backhander by Microsoft to force the engineers to use this crap says that the project has been a success. What an amazing surprise.

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Anonymous Coward

He was pretty complimentary about the iPhones too... Is he taking bribes from competing companies?

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Anonymous Coward

Backhanders?

Have you ever worked in corporateland - especially one that used to be part of the government? No single person gets to make a decision like this. Hell, no single panel of experts gets to make a decision like this.

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Sil

Outstanding article

Outstanding article, looking forward to reading more articles on how businesses are using technology, what feedback they get from the field.

What would have interested me is why use iPhones when some of the development was done for Windows 8. Was the choice made when WP8 wasn't available? Was the promise of write for Windows 8, run on WP8 not held? Was this a strategically motivated decision not to put all eggs in the same basket?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Outstanding article

The iPhones have been out there for some time and I guess a lot of time and money has been spent on developing the apps they use on those phones.

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Isn't the real benefit..

... a much, much, much faster machine with an SSD, rather than Windows 8 as such?

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This advertisement brought to you by....

All that was missing from this article was an 0845 number to buy a Panasonic laptop with BT Broadband...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This advertisement brought to you by....

"This article must be a paid advertisement, because it does not agree with my infallible opinion."

Get over yourself

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This advertisement brought to you by....

Right, because it would be a much more informative article about the widepsread rollout of new kit to field engineering teams if it talked about "an unnamed company using phones and laptops from other unnamed companies, running operating systems we don't want to mention". That would be much more interesting.

I think Microsoft, Apple, BT and Panasonic have big enough advertising budgets to draw attention to their products on their own. I'm not sure how a balanced article that equally praises and criticises products from competing manufacturers could be seen as an advert.

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Re: This advertisement brought to you by....

No it's an advertisement because its just an uncritical testement on technology used in one company. It reads exactly like those other paid for stories you read in the printed media.

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Win 8 with touchscreen device is a much different experience than non-touchscreen devices

I used Win 8 on a standard laptop for work and it was a speedy OS, a good bit faster than Win 7 on the same hardware....but the usability was poor and my colleagues experience was the same, productivity took a nosedive. However on a touchscreen device it works ok, true it takes time to find where stuff lives, but it is not bad at all.

AC @10:44 hah hah hah

El Reg, please remove the ability to post anonymously, the amount of really crap attempts at trolling is getting out of hand. Or maybe put in a button alongside the crap troll so if a counter hits 10? 20? 30? then the user gets moved to a "freaking idiot" group, dont tell them they are in it, just dont display their posts. Should stop the cretins posting...... eventually. The build up of bile might lead them to break their computer so that would be a win too.

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Re: Win 8 with touchscreen device is a much different experience than non-touchscreen devices

@Youvegottobe Joking

"usability was poor and my colleagues experience was the same, productivity took a nosedive"

That's interesting - can you provide some examples of the issues that affected you and your colleagues? Specifically, were the issues with normal Windows desktop apps, or with Win 8 Metro apps? How long did the dip in productivity last?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Win 8 with touchscreen device is a much different experience than non-touchscreen devices

Oh yeah, that'd do the site a whole load of good - all the partisan "Windows vs Linux" people would get each other barred and all the people who try to be neutral pointing out where each OS is better or worse than the other, would also get barred because the fanboys interpret any criticism as a personal attack, regardless of if the posts are balanced or not.

As for not posting anonymously - I'll do that when everyone posts under their given name. Until such a point, you may as well be anonymous and I can't see the behavior of certain commentors improving until that point.

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Windows 8

I've had my doubts, but this sounds like a good application of it.

I think that at least 50% of the benefits mentioned are simply from getting up to date kit of /any/ sort into the hands of the field engineers though, but as someone who does a bit of scrabbling around in network cabinets I can certainly agree that a tablet form factor for an on-screen checklist, diagram or whatever is A Good Thing.

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I'd like to add..

..that BT could have bought diamond encrusted iThings with the amount of money that they have squeezed out of the public. *Unscrupulous bastards!

*Phorm, and labyrinthine small print on all their products which always ends, "More terms and conditions apply, see www.bt.com".

OK the article is about Openreach but I fancied a rant anyway.

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Unhappy

What a waste

Am I only only one dismayed by the money BT is throwing about keeping Apple and Microsoft rich? If they used Galaxy Note tablets (with stylus), and inexpensive android phones they would have only 1 OS to deal with, would cost a fraction what they have paid and would be much more portable and easy to replace. Pff, what a waste of money.

I find it difficult to believe a BT engineer really needs the power of a laptop, it's not as if they are simulating the network!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a waste

And how many ruggedised Galaxy Notes are there? Why are you keen on Samsung being kept in the money and not Apple/MS?

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Re: What a waste

Have you got any frigging clue what telecoms engineers do? Coz it really isn't sat drinking tea reading the Current Bun all sodding day (some of that may happen but its pretty rare in most telcos).

A large proportion of the software they need to use is bespoke and will probably only work in a Windows environment unless they want to start again. Even off-the-shelf software is very platform limited. Add to that the multiple types of diagnostic tools now required because they are dealing with multiple types of network and you need something very capable to deal with it. None of it is cheap and whatever you implement is likely to be in use for the next 5-6 years (hardware at least).

Anything that helps when they are at the customer site, untangling problems in green boxes, in the exchange or down a manhole repairing fibre is a damn good thing. Automating anything in the paperwork will make a huge difference, let alone being able to see routing plans, wiring diagrams, full details about the job will make a massive difference.

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Mushroom

No improvement in quality

All this tech and they still cant stop my line dropping at random as it has done for 10+ years - now they are blaming CP equipment that has only been available in the area for 10 months.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No improvement in quality

A line I used to have dropped randomly, mostly in the Winter - We had NTL round again and again to fix it, they failed for nearly six months. When BT came to take over from NTL, they found the problem in about 20 minutes - a cable clip stapled through the cable behind a radiator. When the radiator was on, it was on the cable expanded causing a short.

My suggestion (which you may well already have tried)? Have they replaced your internal wiring? Do you get drop-outs when you've connected directly into the internal socket in the master socket (not sure what the proper name is for it). Have you cut your bell line this helped a friend of mine, but check out advise on the internet first?

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Flame

Re: No improvement in quality

Removed EVERYTHING even the phone some years ago - yep paying for a voice line that I cant use cos the first thing that happens in that Openjoke try to blame our stuff. Everything electrical has changed here during thetime I have had broadband. Several routers have been tried including 585v6 and HGV2700s and now a Fritzbox.

I moved 10 months ago to an LLU service and STILL the problem persists, even after a pair change between the Cabinet and Exchange. It has to be between my NTE5 and the cabinet, but Openjoke are reluctant to try to fix this any more. BT cant even sort out the line length. According to one person I spoke to at BT some time ago - and this fits with the estimators at Kitz and other sites... my line is a shade under 3 km, However the Be checker claims that the BT database gives my line as being 2665 metres.

When they invest in tech that actually gets faults fixed then it will be newsworthy!

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Re: No improvement in quality

@Da Weezil

"However the Be checker claims that the BT database gives my line as being 2665 metres."

Ah, their database is always right you see.

Just like the way their database was right that I still had an old style telephone socket in my house back in the 1990s. Except of course I had the new style socket.

Dunno what happened in that instance but at a previous address I discovered that paperwork could get lost in the BT system and the database didn't get updated.

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I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

because they deserve it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

Why would you hope or think that?

I mean, really why? They're just normal people doing their jobs.

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Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

I don't think so. They think they're too good to let me work for them. Well they're not. They take a shit through the same hole as everybody else! but they think they're so much better. They wouldn't know talent if it hit them in the face like a big red telephone box. That's why it's such a horrid place to work and why I'm happy I don't work there and why I think they're all scum. I'm sorry the truth is so painful to you.

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Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

hey ho maybe something bad will happen to you and then I can stroke my chin and say maybe the process fucked you over correctly. maybe it will be something like a disease. yeah.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

"hey ho maybe something bad will happen to you"

Perhaps now would be a good time to take a break from the internet for a few hours.

C.

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M7S
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WTF?

Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

Which in turn would knock onto their customers.

Thanks a bundle. Really. No I don't want my phone line fixed promptly when it's not working and I really like problems with broadband meaning that I cannot download my emails etc. Perhaps when you next spot an openreach technician you could scatter some caltrops around his tyres so that he can't help anyone else either.

(To be clear, officer I'm not attempting to incite an offence. I'm feeling sarcastic)

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Re: I hope this causes the BT staff lots of problems

it would be nice to see them helping people in the first place and not just constantly lying that its their internal wiring.

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WTF?

"Biggest investment to date"

Sooooo, does this mean they spent more on some shiny new laptops than they've spent on upgrading the infrastructure they were given pretty much for free by us taxpayers?!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Biggest investment to date"

I think you'll find that the vast majority of that infrastructure has been replaced in the time they've owned it and that if you want to blame anyone about the sell off of BT, it should be the Tory part.

That would be the same Tory party who sold them off, then spent a long time preventing them from making any proper upgrades to their network, such as FTTP which was suggested in the 80s and for competition rules they weren't allowed to proceed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Biggest investment to date"

Unlikely I think.

Firstly because the network was sold, not given away. When BT was privatised, as with all the other utilities, the assets were sold to anyone who wanted to buy them. If you sell something then a) you're not giving it away and b) it's not yours any more.

Secondly, before privatisation, the GPO or whatever they were called then *subsidised* the taxpayer. The telecoms business was a net contributor to the exchequer. There was no kindly civil servant handing out gold coins to the GPO to go and invest wisely. All revenue went to the government, the utilities then had to beg for some of it back to pay their staff and if there was any left over, to buy new kit.

Thirdly, the network at privatisation was on its knees. Decades of under-investment meant that many telephone exchanges were like working museums and potential new customers went on the bottom of a queue that could last for months. I don't know for sure, but I expect that the cost of replacing thousands of telephone exchanges and the entire national transmission system with digital technology probably cost more than a lorry full of laptops.

I expect that's a longer answer than you were wanting, but you did ask.

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Devil

Do OR guys then book the boot time of the BT build on their daily sheets?

Oh the fun of a BT laptop with a BT internal IT build on it.

Last time I saw one of these it was just under 20mins to boot up and load all the 'security' soft/mal-ware install by BT IT. The constant hangs and crashes and totally draconian restrictions on Internet access, as the Internet is seen as a bad thing inside the corp, for stealing all their lovely telco revenue and destroying the 'walled garden'

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